The New York Rangers’ rebuild has come a long way, but there is still plenty of work to be done and one major problem to fix.
With 29 games remaining in the regular season, the New York Rangers’ playoff chances are looking bleak. Unless the Blueshirts can go on an extraordinary run down the stretch, they’ll head home in early April for the third-straight season.
Inconsistency is the main reason for the playoff-less season and becoming a consistent club is the organization’s tall task ahead.
While it doesn’t look like the Rangers will achieve their postseason aspirations, the 2019-2020 campaign has been far from a failure. It’s true, Jeff Gorton and John Davidson began to accelerate the rebuild this past summer by adding Artemi Panarin and Jacob Trouba, but let’s not overlook the fact that qualifying for the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs would have put New York a year ahead of schedule.
Instead, the Rangers are right on schedule, which is a positive.
Since the rebuild was announced in February of 2018, the timeline has been quite clear. The goal has always been for the Rangers to be a playoff team in 2021 and to begin legitimately contending for the Stanley Cup in 2022.
Though it has felt like an eternity, it is only year two of the Blueshirts’ teardown. These things take time and patience is key. The team is taking one step backward to take two steps forward.
Some recent examples of this include two of the NHL’s youngest and most exciting teams — The Toronto Maple Leafs and Colorado Avalanche. Both organizations have recently been able to pull off successful and efficient rebuilds; however, in doing so, both franchises suffered through a three-year postseason-hiatus.
The outline for the Rangers’ rebuild is there. Right now, the boys in blue are right where they need to be, arguably overachieving this season. Head coach David Quinn deserves a lot of credit for this. Despite having the youngest roster in the league, the Blueshirts are in almost every single game, they always play to the final whistle, and they have gotten relatively good results thus far.
When rebuilding, it is important to focus on development and letting the kids play. Quinn has done a great job balancing this along with remaining competitive at the same time. He has successfully allowed his youngsters to take on major roles without tanking in the process.
David Quinn’s best attribute has proven to be his ability to get the most out of his players. Artemi Panarin, Mika Zibanejad, Ryan Strome, Chris Kreider and Tony DeAngelo are all having career years. Youngsters such as Adam Fox, Ryan Lindgren and Filip Chytil have thrived as well.
The pieces are in place. Nonetheless, if the Rangers want to head back to the Stanley Cup Playoffs next season, they’ll have to find a way to solve the problem that has plagued them throughout the 2019-2020 campaign — that nagging inconsistency.
This is perhaps the biggest flaw of Quinn and the Rangers. The problem doesn’t exist due to a lack of talent. The Blueshirts are rarely overmatched and have shown that they can play with anybody, as evidenced by big-time victories over the Lightning, Penguins, and Capitals.
To put it in simple terms, the Rangers simply have too many clunkers. After a stretch of encouraging performances, too often the Rangers will come out slow and fail to find their mojo. When this happens, the Blueshirts usually wake-up late in the game and put together a valiant comeback effort that ultimately falls short.
Over an 82-game season, this is obviously going to happen a few times. However, it’s becoming an issue for Quinn’s squad. The Rangers have won three consecutive games just once this year and that happened all the way back in November. They have only managed to string together back-to-back wins on seven other occasions.
Just look at this past week. It looked like the Blueshirts had finally found some momentum after an impressive win over the Toronto Maple Leafs. After winning three of their last four games, with their most recent victory coming against a legitimate contender, they were set to host the lowly Buffalo Sabres. On the other hand, the Sabres entered having won just one of their last six contests.
So what happened? You guessed it… the Rangers laid an egg. Buffalo mounted a 3-0 lead, and then the Boys in Blue began their comeback late in the third period. In the end, the Sabres came away with a 3-2 victory. Too little, too late for the Blueshirts.
This has been the story of New York’s season. Their inability to win in bunches has hindered their postseason desires. With more consistency, it’s not hard to believe that the Rangers could have squeaked into a playoff spot.
If the Blueshirts want to continue on the right track next season, they are going to need to find a way to reduce the clunkers and string together some wins. Fortunately, the rest of the puzzle seems to be in place. The foundation has been set, and the Rangers are clearly on the ascent. Yet to have success in the National Hockey League, consistency is key.
And right now, consistency is the Rangers’ kryptonite.